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Pet Talk: Are people hazards to pets?

May 18, 2010

From College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University

Dogs, cats and other pets are a special blessing to the lives of humans. Pets are sometimes provided to the sick and dying to provide comfort, and trained to assist the elderly and disabled in their daily activities.

Pets clearly fill the role for companionship and positive emotions in humans. They also provide an opportunity to teach children about responsibility, and give people an excuse to exercise by walking their dog or playing with their cat.

Scientific evidence shows that petting an animal will lower your blood pressure and calm your body. However, at least some people perceive pets as a potential household hazard. With that in mind, it is important to remember that less than 1 percent of emergency room injuries are associated with pets.

Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical assistant professor and director of general surgery services for the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said: “We see a great number of cases where a cat, dog or ferret has been accidentally injured by their owner. We see dogs all the time that have broken bones from the owners accidentally stepping or sitting on them, and injured paws from paws or legs being caught in doors. Sometimes the pet has curled up in a recliner to sleep and been smashed when the chair decided to close, or a cat or ferret has gone to sleep in the laundry hamper and gets thrown into the washing machine or dryer, animals have eaten prescription medication, cats crawling up in the engine of the car; the list goes on and on.”

There are several things that pet owners need to know to ensure that the least amount of harm comes to their pet or themselves. Be aware of the pet’s environment by knowing where your pet likes to sleep or linger. It may help to keep your pet out of harm’s way if they have a specific place designated for them to sleep. If you have a small dog, pick it up out of the way to avoid tripping or stepping on it. A dog’s desire to run and jump obnoxiously can be cured through obedience training.

“Every dog needs obedience training,” said Stickney. “They need to know the basic commands: sit, stay, come, lie down. It helps the pet, and also saves the owners from embarrassing situations when hosting visitors in the home. If you are outside with your dog, always have a leash to keep them under control, even if they are well trained to go without one.”

Household items such as antifreeze, rat bait, and chocolate are fatal to dogs and cats if ingested. Obesity caused by accidentally overfeeding your pet is also a hazard to their health and livelihood.

Stickney said: “A good way to make sure that your dog is not overweight is to look at them from the top. Their body should look like an oblong hourglass, with a broader chest, a thinner waist, and broader hips. Two straight lines is too much weight! You should be able to feel, but not see, your dog’s ribs.”

Dog parks are a great place to take your pet. They are away from traffic, and are made especially for the safety of dogs. At a dog park, your pet is safe to run and play as much as they want without running into furniture, falling down the stairs, or being stepped on by people.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at http://tamunews.tamu.edu. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

From the May 19-25, 2010 issue

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